I’m uh Sara Robinson and I was on the board of Spare Tyre for I think something like 26 years.
I got one of the first stand by flights to California when they became available in 1978. Got myself to the west coast and found myself in San Fransisco not going where I was supposed to be going and not doing what I was supposed to be doing and at a loose end and my hostess umm needed to help me r-resort my vacation plans and she said “aha! Well I have this friend umm an Englishwoman who’s umm travelling here too at the moment and maybe the two of you should hook up” and that was Katina Noble. One of the original founding umm members of Spare Tyre and umm w-we met the following day we umm liked each other umm immediately. We we were truly both at a loose end and so we went off travelling together.
For me there have been three forms of Spare Tyre but the original original which was the larger group of women umm I think we are talking about seven actors got together that following year. So in 1979, and within a year or two the umm the thing was getting just a tiny bit more formalised. Anyway the- a board came into existence.
For me I would say there’s the that original founding group of the seven that then reduces over a fairly short period of time to the three who were uhh Clair Chapwell, Katina Noble and Harriett [Powell]. That’s when I joined the board and then over the process of those years the company morphed into being more of uhh an educational training company. So, so I you know I fitted as a friendly lawyer and ticked that box for them.
You know certainly corporate umm law or charity law you know I didn’t know anything about but it, it’s not, it’s not you know wasn’t difficult in those days you know I knew the basics and it was really just a question of me being able to to read legal forms and I didn’t have any issue with that and help them with you know filing what they needed to file at companies house and you know making sure that the directors were all properly signed up. Umm and then it you know evolved from there ov- over the years. I was you know I was asked to look you know obviously at contracts. Again I'm not really you know I’m not really a contract lawyer but … a- at the level certainly in those days I I didn’t feel uncomfortable about what I was being asked to deal with because it it was relatively simple, relatively informal in many ways and then you know there were other issues that came up over time. Employment law issues... health and safety issues.
Well there was no such thing as you know good governance and that was one of the things that... umm that that I became involved in particularly when I was chair because uhh... the writing was on the wall and and and we were there was so much more information out there and you know uhh voluntary organisations were being given so much more help. When when we started out you know everyone was reinventing the wheel.
There can’t be many people who would have been allowed to stay on a board for that long and it was only when I became chair and and went off on, I can remember I went off on a charity law conference when (laughs) they were wagging their fingers up on the on the (laughs) main desk saying you know “refresh your boards” you know “you really shouldn’t be having people for more than” (laughs) “4/5 years” … Oh my heavens you know I've been on for 26 and I've been chair for 6 and I know I’m not a despot so I better (laughs) go quick. So I, so that’s when I started thinking about my my exit strategy because, and that was the difficulty is that that there there is a tendency a natural tendency on a board that if if things seem to be working pretty well why would you, why would you let anyone go? But umm you have to.
You do everything you know you reasonably can to guard against umm the potential downsides. It it does mean that you’ve got a a continuity of of history and support... and and knowledge.
The company umm operated on very cooperative egalitarian lines, you know, one for all and all for one and the limited funds were shared out. Yes the whole thing you know there was no no structure. Everyone was umm was participating in and out equally.
I loved seeing my three mates perform. They were having such fun and the audience had such fun. So that early body of work I loved. The early productions with the young gay and lesbian community I found in- incredibly moving and uplifting and then extraordinary productions inside umm some of the care homes with the elders very very moving work.
Seeing some of the work inside the hospitals. Some of the work explaining how better to present situations. I thought that was incredibly powerful, informative, tremendous.
I’m very very much looking forward to follow you online and to find out where you’ve taken the work and for me to be able to see the differences and also how it’s built on the original foundation blocks and therefore the similarities. But you can see the natural thread is there.
Well it was very successful and has remained to huge pride as successful. I think it’s an extraordinary organisation just managed in the most difficult of times to maintain such delivery of such service over such a long period of time.
Sara is a lawyer and was on the Spare Tyre board from 1979 until 2005, the final 6 years of which she was our Chair.
She talked to us about how she first heard of Spare Tyre, and what kept her interested in the company for so long.